The Saddest Moth Fact You’ll Learn Today


We peeped the antennae of these spectacular little creatures at the edge of our window today and then spent the next hour watching and photographing them.  We had no idea what kind of moths they were at first.

The green one, who is actually about 4-5 inches wide (wider than Joseph’s hand!) is a Luna moth.  We think the one on the right is an Agreeable Tiger Moth. 

Sadly, Luna moths don’t have mouths because they NEVER eat.  They only live long enough to mate.


Homemade Snow – for my Friends in the U.P.

I keep seeing posts on Facebook about the epic snow falling in the U.P., one of the snowiest places in the U.S.  58 inches so far this year!

Ahhhh, Snow in October in the  U.P., circa 2010.  A minute after that picture was taken Molly nailed Joseph with that "snowball".

Ahhhh, Snow in October in the U.P., circa 2010.
A minute after that picture was taken Molly nailed Joseph with that snowball.

And it is starting to snow here in New England.  Luckily, ours is just pretty, not plan-cancelling.  But with with 3 young children I am always ready for a day in the house.

Here is our favorite homemade snow recipe, for when you don’t feel like going outside anymore or bringing that wet stuff in:

one part shaving cream
one part white school glue

Combine well and sculpt, paint, and play away!  The mixture ends up thick and goopy and dries up puffy.  It keeps for months.

5 Awesome Things to do on Halloween (or any day)

With this much fiber, you know It's going to be a GREAT day!

With this much fiber, you know it’s going to be a GREAT day!

1.  What’s better than Gak and Oobleck?  Edible slime!  Make it.  Eat it!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 teaspoon soluble fiber (i.e. Metamucil)
  • food coloring (optional)
  • flavoring (optional)
  • 1 cup water
  • microwavable bowl
  • An adult.  This slime gets really, really hot.  Only an adult should mix and remove from microwave.

Mix 1 teaspoon of Metamucil with 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl.

If you wish (my kids ALWAYS wish) add a drop or two of food coloring or flavoring.

Heat the bowl in the microwave for 3-4 minutes.  When it starts to bubble vigorously, stop the microwave and stir the mixture. Careful, it will be VERY HOT!

Cook for another 2-3 more minutes and then stir again.  HOT AGAIN!

Repeat 3 to 4 times.  HOT, HOT, HOT!

Remove the bowl from the microwave and pour the VERY HOT mixture onto a plate with a spoon.

Let cool completely.

Have Fun!

Here’s a great video explaining polymers and the chemistry of this edible slime.

2.  I’ve said it before, baking is the perfect school subject.  So, bake these awesome banana crumb muffins.  Seriously.  They have 5 stars with almost 8,000 reviews.  They are so good, we made them two days in a row. 

3.  Dress up.

If Darth Vader lived in New England.

4.  Eat candy.

Molly made me add that.

If you love you’re scared of sugar like I am, but also try to use evidence in your parenting, cite this review of 12 separate research studies concluding that there was no evidence that eating sugar makes kids hyper.  Or read this great piece from Mind the Science Gap.  And then eat that candy!

5.  Just in case sugar does make your kids hyper, fake pro-wrestle to this video à la Just Dance 4 :

Take a Deep Breath for this Impromptu Physics Lesson

Last night, as the kids were playing with their current favorite App, Human Body by TINYBOP, Molly asked about the diaphragm.  As I had completely forgotten we each had one of those, Joe jumped in to explain the physics of how we breath with our diaphragm.  For those that didn’t pay attention in, what was it, Biology?, here’s a quick explanation:

When you inhale, your diaphragm, which is a muscle, tightens and moves down. This creates more space in your chest cavity, into which your lungs expand.  As your lungs expand, air is sucked in through your nose and/or mouth.  The muscles between your ribs (called intercostal muscles) also go to work here.  Your intercostal muscles tighten, but instead of moving down, they pull your rib cage up and out.  In doing so, they help enlarge the chest cavity.

When you exhale, your diaphragm relaxes and moves back up into the chest cavity. The intercostals also relax and reduce the space in your chest cavity.  As the space in the chest cavity gets smaller, air rich in carbon dioxide is forced out of your lungs then out of your nose or mouth.

If you want to learn more, click here.

So how do you explain this to kids and Mommy?

You don't need anything fancy to teach science at home.

You don’t need anything fancy to teach science at home.

Stuff you Need

  • 1 jar
  • 2 plastic bags
  • 1 straw
  • 2 rubberbands

Take a plastic bag, wrap it tightly around the end of a straw and fasten it with a rubber band (so that it looks like a balloon).  If you have a balloon, you can use that instead.

Put the straw, bag side down, into the jar.

Cover the jar with another plastic bag, making sure to poke the straw through it with as small a hole as possible.  You need to make sure no air can get in or out through that hole.  Fasten the second bag around the neck of the jar, making it fairly taut over the jar’s opening, using the second rubber band.

Pull up and down on the baggy covering the jar (this represents the diaphragm).

Look through  the jar and you will see the bag on the end of the straw (here, representing the lung) filling and emptying as you pull on the baggy.

You can see a cool 3-D animation of this process here.

It’s only a minute and as Molly says, “it’s so cool.”  So, check it out.

Also, if you have any interest in teaching your kids (or yourself) about their bodies, check out Human Body.

It is easy to navigate, very informative, and the kids love to learn how to care for the human body.  It has lead to lots of great questions.

It covers everything from eating, to digestion ( Joseph and JohnJohn, and OK, all of us, are still howling about the toots that really come out of the large intestine), to the various systems (muscular, skeletal, etc.).  At $2.99, it’s a fair deal.

They even include a handy Human Body Guidebook, which you can find here.  You can use it with or without the App.

Do Try This at Home: Oobleck!


It’s been a fun week.

My nieces are visiting.  It’s the first time I have had any young relatives alone without their parents and it’s great!  So much better than my sisters!  Having five kids instead of three, even though they are all behaving really well, makes me appreciate my mom, who stayed home with 5 of us, just a little bit more.  It is so busy!

One thing that we have been busy doing is making Oobleck.  Have you heard of it?  I didn’t until now (I know, you are wondering how I am qualified to homeschool my kids – – thank goodness for Google!) and it seriously blew my mind.  You don’t even need kids to enjoy this experiment.  It is that cool.

Stay with me and I promise, it will blow your mind too.  This stuff is wonderful!

We saw a segment on Non-Newtonion fluids on PMK and decided to make one at home.  If you don’t want the science behind it, just skip to “When do we get to Oobleck?  What the heck is it?”

To understand Non-Newtonion fluid, we need to understand Newtonion fluid. 

What is a Newtonion Fluid? 

Many people have heard of Sir Isaac Newton, the Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, and Physicist.  In addition to his snazzy laws of motion,  Newton also described how “normal” liquids or fluids behave.  He noticed that they have a constant viscosity or flow that really only changes with changes in temperature or pressure.  Think of water, the classic Newtonion liquid, boiling or freezing, or shooting out of a water gun (the smaller the hole, the slower the flow, the larger the hole, the faster the flow).  You can stir and stir and stir water and it will not change the viscosity of water.

What is a Non-Newtonion Fluid?

Very simply, non-Newtonian fluids change their viscosity or flow under stress.  For example, think of all those summer berries you may be eating right now.  Now think of that yummy whipped cream you are dolloping on top.  Cream flows a lot like water when you pour it out of the container into a bowl.  Yet, start mixing it with your whisk and it gets thicker.  Stir and stir and stir.  It gets thicker.  And thicker.  And thicker.  Add some sugar and vanilla and Yum!  That is a non-Newtonian fluid because it behaves differently under stress.

Another example of a non-Newtonion fluid is ketchup.  Sitting in the bottle it seems pretty thick and it is hard to get out.  Turn it over and start karate-chopping the 57 on the side of the bottle and blam-o, it gets runnier and flies out onto your fries in a big glop.  Also, yum.

When do we get to the Oobleck?  What the heck is it?

Oobleck, very simply, is a mixture of cornstarch and water.  Specifically, it’s about 1 part water mixed with 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch.  Use your judgment.  Put the ingredients in a bowl and start stirring until they are mixed.  If, like my son and niece, you like it super-colored, add all the food coloring you can find.


You won’t like this Oobleck when it is angry.

What happens?  If you move the spoon, fork or your hands through the mixture slowly, it acts like a liquid.  Very runny.  If you smack it or grab some and squish it into a ball (thus putting stress on it), it will turn to a solid.  Really.  Oobleck is both a liquid and a solid at the same time!  Far out!

Here comes a life lesson.  Oobleck has the same properties as quicksand.  So, if you ever find yourself sinking into quicksand, move slowly to get out.

The word Oobleck, which describes this wondrous material, comes from one of my all-time favorites, Dr. Seuss. In Bartholomew and the Oobleck: (Caldecott Honor Book) (Classic Seuss), he writes about a king who, bored with the things that fall from the sky (rain, snow, etc.), orders his magicians to make something new.  They come up with Oobleck, a green, gooey substance.  Of course, when it falls from the sky, it messes up everything.  The king’s page, Bartholomew, helps the king fix the problem by teaching him the power of the words, “I’m sorry.”  More life lessons!

Drop everything you are doing and make Oobleck.  You will not regret it.  If you do,  then “it is all my fault! And I am sorry!  Oh, Bartholomew, I’m awfully, awfully sorry!”

P.S.  I love this stuff so much I brought a container of corn starch to a dinner party with friends last night.  On the front I wrote “Oobleck Maker”.  On the back I wrote “Mix 1 part corn starch to about 1 1/2 parts H20 and mix.  Add food coloring if you want.  Then ask your Dad (who was a physics major, I think) about Non-Newtonian fluids”.  I thought I was pretty clever.  On the up-side, the kids all loved it.  On the down-side, we got it all over my friend’s house.  All over her table, floors, even in her flower arrangement!  Whoopsy!  When did I become that friend?  We did clean up, which was pretty easy but beware if you try something similar.

P.P.S.  If you are a scientist or know more about Oobleck than I do, how did I do?  If I missed something or got something wrong, please let me know.  I am learning too!

Popular Mechanics for Kids


Like many other homeschoolers, we are in the car A LOT.  Part of it is that we live in a more rural part of the country.  Part of it is that I really love to travel.   We are always hopping in the car for a jaunt to see new things and we are lucky to live in a part of the country that offers mostly gorgeous, easy driving.  More time to travel is another reason we homeschool.

Awesomely, Molly has hit the age where she likes to bring a book in the car.  Love it!  We also watch a lot of videos.   Although I am still a little conflicted about screen time, I have to admit that there are many high quality programs out there now.  Watching videos during our frequent drives from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Hey, Yooper friends!) to Milwaukee almost single-handedly taught our two oldest their numbers, alphabet and phonics.  (Unfortunately, this also caused my husband to develop the first documented case of Leapfrog-related post traumatic stress disorder.)

One of our favorite series right now is Popular Mechanics for Kids, which the cool kids in my car call “PMK” for short.  I bought the whole series because we loved them so much.  Honestly, I learn how things work from them too, even though I am just listening.    Each episode has two hosts – – one of them is pre-Old School  Elisha Cuthbert! – – who learn how to do something new each time.  As they learn, you learn.   The topics include everything from special effects to food production to garbage to body mechanics.  There is so much to think about that we end up watching them over and over.

All told there are over 70 episodes in the set.  Check them out from your library or here.

Forget SuperMAN, it’s SuperMOON!

Forget the Man of Steel.  Look up in the sky today/tonight and you’ll see the most super of  “supermoons” of 2013.    That is, the moon is the closest it will get to earth for all of 2013 RIGHT NOW!  What does “supermoon” mean exactly?  Find out here.

The big question we have today is will the tides be higher because of SuperMOON?  Yes!  How does the moon affect the tides?  Molly asked that question too and I didn’t know.  So, I looked it up and found a great explanation that even I could understand here.  Then we enjoyed this very simple explanation of tides using only a cookie, an M&M, an onion, and an orange.

If you are looking for a great moon-related book, check out one of my all-time favorite books, Min-Yo and the Moon Dragon by Elizabeth Hillman.  It’s out of print, so I had to buy it second-hand a few years back after finding it in our library.  Set in China, it opens with the moon “falling” from the sky.  Concerned that the moon is going to crash into the earth, the Emperor of China, after being rejected by some of the wisest and richest men in the land, sends Min-Yo, a young peasant-girl, to ask the Moon Dragon for help.  Min-Yo bravely climbs a cobweb ladder through the darkest and coldest hours of the night to get to the moon.  When she gets there, she discovers the Moon Dragon, who has been all but forgotten.  In befriending him (and giving him nutritious treats instead of diamonds and jewels) Min-Yo learns, along with the Moon Dragon, how to save the earth.  She and the dragon also show one way the stars may have first lit up our skies.

The illustrations alone make it worth getting.  And while it isn’t so rare anymore, it gets extra points for featuring a strong female protagonist.  But that’s not why I love the book.  I just think it’s a magical and sweet story.  Min-Yo made it to my short list when I was thinking of baby girl names 7 years ago!

If you are not feeling academic today and can’t find Min-Yo, but still want to enjoy SuperMOON, then take a listen to Old Blue Eyes.  Here he is live in 1969 paying tribute to the first men on the moon:

You Can’t do This on Your Morning Commute


I am sitting on the deck with a fresh cup of coffee.

The sun is bright and warm.  Birds are singing.

A bluejay is snacking on bread off the deck.

The kids, in their pajamas, are running around together making and chasing bubbles.  JohnJohn giggles in delight.

The school bus just drove by.

I’d like to say I’m using this as a lesson in physics or something else educational.

But I’m not.  I’m just feeling free.  And grateful.  And that’s about it.